April 27, 2020 13:41:32
The Prime Minister has urged aged care facilities to ease coronavirus restrictions on visitors, but a strict new rule coming into effect this week may make it more difficult for some people to see their elderly relatives.
- People visiting aged care facilities will need to have had a flu vaccination from May 1
- The SA Premier says nursing homes should not be restricting visitors until then
- The aged care industry says their first priority is to protect residents
From Friday, visitors to aged care homes across Australia will need to have had a flu vaccination to enter, with some exemptions.
In South Australia, the rule is in place under a direction from the Police Commissioner, who is also state coordinator under the Emergency Management Act.
Immunisation Coalition chairman Rod Pearce said the number of flu vaccines was not the issue, but some people were having trouble getting appointments at doctors or pharmacies because of high demand.
He said people wanting to visit an aged care facility should let their doctor know and they could be placed on a priority list for a vaccine.
“If someone is actually visiting a relative or someone in a nursing home, and are concerned about their vaccine cover, they should be ringing around or contacting their doctor to say ‘this is why they need it before May 1’,” Dr Pearce said.
The May 1 deadline “may have slipped off the radar” for some people worried more about COVID–19, but Dr Pearce said was important people got vaccinated before they visited elderly loved ones.
“There are enough vaccines for Australians to have a higher vaccination rate than ever,” he said.
He urged people to get an immunisation certificate if they were vaccinated for the flu to allow quicker access to the nursing homes they want to visit.
Aged care facilities prioritising residents’ health
Last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Commonwealth would step in if aged care homes continued to refuse visitors.
“Having people stuck in their rooms, not being able to be visited by their loved ones and carers and other support people, that’s not OK,” he said.
Aged Care Industry Australia chief executive Luke Westenberg said facilities’ first priority was to protect residents, and sometimes that meant stricter restrictions than required under law.
“If [care providers] feel the best protection for their residents consists in putting some additional arrangements in place, they would need to take those steps to meet their duty of care,” he said.
“That’s their overriding legal responsibility — to ensure that residents are consulted and to ensure that residents are safe.”
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said aged care homes should not be asking people for proof of their flu vaccination until Friday.
He said he could “understand [the] anxiety of operators because of issues interstate“, but there had not been coronavirus outbreaks in South Australian aged care facilities.
“On the one hand you’ve got your health requirements, on the other hand you’ve got your ability to get about on your normal daily work,” he said.
“There are serious consequences for residents in these facilities not being able to meet with their loved ones — it’s really, really tough on them.”
Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said the State Government should let the public know if it was planning to relax the restriction because of an expected “rush on flu vaccinations”.
“It’s always helpful if the Government can be clear what the situation is,” Mr Picton said.